COAT UPKEEP AND MAINTENANCE OF DROP-COATED BREEDS
PART 1 OF 2
By Patricia H. Gilbert
All of the steps I discuss I do as regular maintenance of a drop coated show dog. Other breeds may loosely fall into this routine. Truth be known, I keep my dogs in show condition all the time. I just tweak it up a notch for show days.
The drop coated breeds are: Cocker Spaniel; Afghan Hound; Skye Terrier; Havanese; Maltese; Shih Tzu; Silky Terrier; Yorkshire Terrier; Lhasa Apso; Tibetan Terrier; Bearded Collie; Briard; and Polish Lowland Sheepdog. There are other breeds that may loosely fall into this grooming category. Certainly you can use many of the techniques for other coat types.
Analysis of a Drop Show Coat
A good understanding of the breed Standard and how it applies to the dog you are working with is essential. If you are unable to put the two together, try to get help from someone knowledgeable in the breed. This is very important if you are even thinking about stripping or trimming any part of your dog.
You have to be able to analyze the coat for texture and quality. If you are unsure, snip a bit and take it to a good hairdresser. Tell the hairdresser that you are looking to get or maintain a silky or whatever texture you need show dog coat.
Genetics can be overcome with the right coat products and care. I look at these things to determine what needs to be done.
1. Diet and fitness level. Some foods offer more protein, fat, etc. A dog that gets good hard exercise has a better bloom on his coat. They also have better appetites. A mature medium large dog needs at least two miles a day to be in reasonable condition. A smaller dog needs a good brisk walk.
2. Is the dog parasite free? Internally and externally. Parasites affect the overall health and quality of coat.
3. Environment. Weather, humidity, dryness in and outside of living quarters. These determine what products you need to use and strongly affect the quality of coat.
4. Water. Softened and mineral removed water is the best. Installing the equipment to handle this can be costly. If you can do one, do the water softener. If you can't do either, then adjust your grooming products accordingly.
5. Previous handling of the coat. This is a big one as I find that most dogs that come to me have not been bathed and brushed properly and have damaged coats. Repairing damaged coat takes a lot of work and judicial snipping of dried and broken ends.
6. What products can I use to enhance or repair what I am working with on this dog?
Once you have determined what needs to be done, then you can start your routine. You must be faithful to your routine. If you are not, your coats will tell on you.
I never brush a dry or dirty coat. NEVER. When I touch a drop coated breed, I use only a pin brush with straight pins (no bent pins). I replace my brushes every few months. Slicker brushes rip the daylights out of a drop coat. They also don't get to the skin for complete brushing.
Lay your dog down on his side on the grooming table. I like laying the dog down because it is much easier on the dog. It is very fatiguing for a dog to stand for hours. Remember there is muscle tension in the dogs' legs when they stand up. Laying the dog down lets them snooze and be comfortable.
I usually use an anti static product diluted or just plain water in a spray bottle. Start in one area and line brush opposite the direction of the coat growth. One section at a time. I spritz and brush. I start at the ends and increase the depth of my strokes until I am at the skin. Hold the pin brush by the end of the handle and keep it flat. Your strokes should be steady and extend beyond the actual coat. Try not to flip your hand or wrist. Every place you flip your hand creates stress and future breakage in the coat.
Do this over the entire body and on both sides.
Then stand your dog up and brush in the direction of the coat growth.
Maintenance and technique are the keys to a beautiful coat.
Bathing Products, Shampoos, etc.
General rules of thumb. There are always exceptions.
Silky coat comes in any color and is a dream to work with. I use a very diluted light shampoo and very diluted light conditioner.
Cottony coat is often found in blue and cream. Other colors can fall into this category too. Use a diluted heavy shampoo with emollients and humectants. I use a diluted heavy conditioner with possible straighteners or bodifiers.
Woolly coat. Blacks and tans/silvers, etc, and often reds fall into this category. I use a diluted clarifying shampoo. I use a barely diluted heavy conditioner. These colors often need straighteners.
Choose a line of products that you feel will work best on that particular dog. Often times I find a line of products that makes me happy for several dogs. I don't like to mix product lines as each line is formulated to work with each of its other products.
Color Enhancement Shampoos
They really do the job but be careful what you use.
Example - purple shampoo lifts yellow stains. Blue shampoo intensifies yellow stains to a strange greenish color. These shampoos build color on color and can be very unnatural in the final result.
Use them only when absolutely necessary and not for pre-show grooming. If you are on the campaign trail, then once every third or fourth shampoo.
Dilute all shampoos and conditioners.
I dilute everything. I use empty dish liquid bottles. Again depending on coat texture and quality strength of product is determined. See above.
If you have debris in the coat, don't pull it out or try to brush it out before your bath. It will fall out during the bathing and cream rinsing cycles. I put my fingers in just above the snag and wiggle my fingers down toward the ends. Everything usually falls out with the rinse. If anything remains, I leave it to blow out as I dry.
Wet dog down from neck to tail. Leave the head for last. As soon as you wet the head they start to shake and you get very wet.
Squirt shampoo on the middle part of the hair shaft. Massage in gently. Don't rub back and forth. Rubbing breaks coat. If you are using a color enhancement, then pack the dog in your shampoo. Wait ten minutes after the entire dog is packed and then rinse. In this instance I would do the head and ears also.
Rinse like crazy and rinse again.
Cream rinse is applied in the same manner, Depending on coat I may rinse almost all of it out or leave most of it in. Show preparation needs to have most of it rinsed out.
The same techniques applies for blow-drying as for brushing except you have to dry to the skin every time. Drying to the skin trains the coat to lie properly and you won't have waves or kinks.
I hold the coat in my brush a little longer to stretch the coat. If you overstretch the coat there are products to help you revitalize and repair the damage.
I stand the dog up, brush the coat down as it normally drapes, and check the coat for tangles with a wide toothed Greyhound comb.
I wipe out the ears.
I check and scale teeth.
I do toenails.
I do all of these things at least once a week and more often as necessary.
Dirt is the enemy. If you keep dirty or dusty dogs you will have bad coats and lots of dandruff.
Maintenance is the key to a beautiful coat.
As always, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.